At 3:05 p.m. Friday my roommate told me the pants Id just put on to wear to work were too big for me, and I should change into jeans.
About the same time, less than a kilometer away, a bomb went off in the middle of the Achrafieh neighborhood in Beirut.
At 3:15, I scarfed down lunch and decided that tonight was going to be cheerful. I changed my pants, put on a bright yellow belt and slipped on my black Sketchers with the florescent yellow shoelaces. I had gotten a snappy haircut the day before, was wearing my favorite belt and was ready for whatever Friday brought.
At 3:45 I walked into newspaper office, listening to the Scissor Sisters Dont Feel Like Dancing, an ironically danceable song. Everyone was standing around the television, smoking. I slipped the ear buds out and gave my editor a quizzical look. She told me that a bomb had gone off. I rolled my eyes and shook my head. This is Beirut, after all. Then she said it was at Sassine.
My heart dropped. My head raced. At 3 p.m. Thursday, just 24 hours earlier, I was sitting in a salon, one block off Sassine, getting that snappy haircut.
The blast was outside the BEMO bank building at Sassine. I know the building. I ate a Krispy Kreme doughnut after my haircut as I walked past the BEMO building. Theres a small green space out front, something you notice in Beirut, which is so lacking in greenery.
Since moving to Beirut, Ive toured bombed-out sites, seen the camps and bullet-ridden testaments to the endless wars that have devastated this city. Last summer I sat on my balcony listening for gunfire and watching army jeeps fly up the coastal highway toward a gunfight, safe in the knowledge that it wasnt in Achrafieh – that even if that was only a few kilometers from my house, it wasnt in my neighborhood.
This was in my neighborhood: two blocks from the movie theater I go to, a block from the veterinarian who treats my cat. I had been there the day before. Why did it happen this day and not then?
I had to finish my shift at work. People here took it pretty well. The Lebanese have seen much worse.
I kept glancing at my feet and wishing I hadnt worn yellow shoelaces. After two years here, on this day the violence hit a little too close to home. And Im worried that my trademark yellow accessories will forever remind me of how scared I was. Dont feel like dancing now.